Just returned from the preview of our annual exhibition in Bath – the first one, I realise, that I haven’t helped to hang, or indeed exhibit in.

I had painted Wood Anemones especially – but what with all my focus at the moment on packing up the house, trawling through the outdoor shops trying to equip myself with the right sort of gear, figuring out insurance, money, technology (laptop, camera, lenses, mobile phone etc), re-direction of post, cancelling bills, making sure Mum’s cared for (98 and still going strong), sorting out the car… I only realised after hanging was well under way and it was too late to slip it in.

Next year I hope to be putting in some of the work I will have started in China.  What a privilege to be able to paint daily, after years of full-time work in an office on a computer, just barely getting a few hours in on the odd weekend!

I say again, a great big Thank You to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust that is making this whole trip possible.

I spoke recently with Christine Hart-Davis about painting in similar conditions and it does all sound quite challenging. She went on an expedition to Sumatra about 15 years ago in tropical jungle which she said was mountainous and surprisingly dark – far too dark to paint. She had to take photos and bring the plant material back to the wooden jungle hut they were all staying, and record them there. Because it was a scientific collecting and recording expedition, she also had to move at the same pace as the scientists – I suppose a bit like if I accompanied Seamus O’Brien on one of his “In the Footsteps of Augustine Henry” collecting expeditions to China, trying to get as much plant material and seed from as many plants as possible. I guess it must have been like that a great deal of the time for Christine when she was painting for the new Collins’ Flora of Great Britain.

The benefits of striking out on my own are that I should be able to paint at my own pace. The down-side at the moment, is that I have no idea how I am going to arrange a guide to help me find some of the plants I want to paint or how I’m going to travel to the different Nature Reserves or how I’m going to arrange accomodation in or near the different Nature Reserves and other niggling things like can I drink the water? can I sit on the ground without half the insect life of Hubei crawling all over me? will I just be too hot and sticky to be able to sit still for any length of time painting? how will the paint behave in such humidity? will plants drip onto my paper smudging my work?

When I was in Australia back in 1991 travelling with an artist who was painting oils, I was doing landscapes in guaoche and clear blue sky washes were almost impossible as the paint dried almost instantly: the desert air was 40 celcius –  the wind brought it down a bit – but to quote Barry Mckenzie, “it was as dry as a dead dingo’s dongo”.

Back to tonight. I’ve counted on my fingers so it must be true. It’s only 5 days before I leave, but I’d like to think about it as “next week”…

And what doesn’t get done, doesn’t need to get done. This is a great lesson in listening and trusting that life will provide exactly what we need, when we need it. Bring it on!

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